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Cardiovascular disease affects the heart and major blood vessels and is the number one cause of death in the United States. Several health disorders have a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Refer to these sections for further information: angina, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high homocysteine, high triglycerides, and hypertension.
High blood cholesterol does not raise heart disease risk as much in the elderly as it does in younger adults,17 though some increased risk is evident.18 Elderly people who already have heart disease may benefit from cholesterol-lowering treatments,19 but whether elderly people with no heart disease symptoms benefit from lowering their cholesterol levels remains unclear.20,21
Paradoxically, a few studies have actually associated polyunsaturated fat intake with an increased risk of atherosclerosis in humans.55, 56 Israelis, who have a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, have a very high risk of cardiovascular disease, though this relationship might be caused by other factors.57 Animal research has suggested that omega-6 fats could also contribute to cancer risks.58 Finally, a higher fat intake from any source makes weight loss more difficult to achieve, an important health goal for overweight people trying to reduce their risk of heart disease.59 For these reasons, most nutritionally oriented doctors and many cardiologists no longer recommend increasing dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated fat for the prevention of heart disease.
Family history of premature coronary artery disease
A person who has an immediate family member who either suffered a heart attack or was diagnosed with premature heart disease is at increased risk for heart disease.78 79 80 Coronary heart disease is considered premature when it occurs in men before the age of 55 or in women before the age of 65.81 People with a family history of premature heart disease should strive to minimize all of their other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Despite these protective mechanisms attributed to vitamin C, researchers have been unable to consistently associate high vitamin C intake to a reduced risk of heart disease. Trials failing to find vitamin C protective have mostly been conducted in groups of people that all consume at least 90 mg of vitamin C per day—a level beyond which further protection of LDL cholesterol may not occur. Studies comparing people whose diets contain lower amounts of vitamin C to people whose amounts are significantly higher than 90 mg per day, however, have found an association between increasing dietary vitamin C and protection from heart disease. Therefore, leading vitamin C researchers have begun to suggest that vitamin C may be important in preventing heart disease, but only up to modest levels: perhaps 100–200 mg per day.135
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